Which is more important for a successful digital transformation: people and process, or the technology itself?

8.7k views3 Upvotes20 Comments

CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I think your ability to pivot is a people problem. And I will talk about the academic model because that's the one where I'm living today. With COVID you couldn't be in person, you had to do something else. So what were you going to do? Some outcomes were very positive from this, which is causing people to say, "Okay, how much of what we learned from having to do it this way can we carry forward?" Whereas maybe beforehand, it wasn't looked at as strategic. So, it does drive some strategic decisions, but it's the people who are able to make that pivot with speed. We're starting to come back towards in-person. We've got faculty who have become very good at teaching to zoom and they used to be good at teaching to students in a classroom. What they're actually not very good at is teaching to a room and to a zoom. It's not like they can't multi-task, they're smart people. But they've just never had to focus on doing that mixed modality. So we don't know if that's really even a good answer for our business or what the model says it would look like.
Director of IT in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
There seems to be less of an investment in people than there is in technology. Because businesses are spending so much money on software, they're pulling away from investment in people. And that means there's less focus around the processes because there's this assumption that the way that these software packages have been built, they're supposed to define the way that the business is supposed to operate. Technology is the enabler, it is not the answer, it's the enabler to what the outcome is that you're trying to get. And that is a huge gap that I see today in the success of any implementation.
VP, Customer and Technical Operations in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
We never seem to invest enough in the front end on any large project around the change management aspect and what it means to people. I've done numerous automation projects where I knew people weren't on board, we did it anyway, and they found a way to make the new process look as much like the old process and potentially worse.
CEO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
As with almost every project, it boils down to the people. You could give a salesperson in your organization what you believe is the best tool ever, but if they don't feel like they're going to get value out of that tool, they're not going to use it. It's just that simple.
Director of Technology Strategy in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
People, from the top down. Transformation is not about the technology at all, it's about building efficiencies in your business.

Sometimes that will come from Technology, but it's always the people who will end up being impacted (positively or negatively).
Global Intelligent Automation Manager in Healthcare and Biotech, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
For a successful digital transformation, both people and processes, as well as the technology itself, play critical roles. However, in my belief, people and processes hold greater importance, and here's why:

"A harmonious integration of technology into the existing framework, along with a people-centric approach, will pave the way for a successful digital transformation journey."

People Drive Transformation: Regardless of the technology in place, the people drive and manage the digital transformation. Their skills, knowledge, and adaptability are fundamental to the success of any technological implementation. Without a skilled and motivated workforce, even the most advanced technology may not yield the desired outcomes.

Technology's Impact Depends on People and Process: While technology can bring efficiency and automation, its impact is maximized when integrated with well-defined processes and utilized effectively by knowledgeable employees. The right processes enable seamless technology integration into existing workflows and ensure that it aligns with the organization's objectives.

Culture and Adoption: Introducing new technology often requires a cultural shift within an organization. Successful digital transformation involves not only the technology itself but also the willingness of the employees to adopt and embrace the change. Without proper buy-in and support from the workforce, the potential of the technology may remain untapped.

Ease of Use and Adoption: The success of any technology hinges on its ease of use and adoption. The technology that is user-friendly, intuitive, and aligns with existing work practices is more likely to be embraced by the employees, leading to a smoother and more successful digital transformation.

Focus on People-Centric Approach: Prioritizing the needs and expectations of end-users throughout the transformation process is crucial. Understanding their pain points, involving them in the decision-making, and providing proper training and support are key elements of a people-centric approach that drives successful digital adoption.
CTO in Healthcare and Biotech, 11 - 50 employees
People and processes obviously, without them you can't have the process completed. You might face obstacles during the transformation, it is crucial to identify those in a risk management matrix, have a mitigation strategy for them, and act accordingly. I'm pretty sure there will be people who will be against this change, by identifying them and using politics & diplomacy with them and their managers you will set up a successful path for the digital transformation.
CIO in Telecommunication, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
People and Process - but I wouldn't forget to take a deep dive on the data. People often don't know what they want, so the scope and requirements keeps expanding and the project never ends.  People frequently complain about the ridiculousness of the processes they follow, but never want to change it.  Everyone says their data is clean, and it's always a mess.  

Compared to these three, the technology is the easy part.
CDO in Software, 10,001+ employees
I usually explain it like this, 3Ts

Transformation (success) = Talent + Technology + Topology

You do need the 3 Ts to to succeed.

The right talent, this includes hiring, up-skiling and partnering/buying to secure the right people and leadership capability to drive the transformation.

The right technologies to solve the business problem

The the right topology, this has 3 ingredients, how to organize the teams, how to enable ways of working to maximize the technology capability and how to shape a culture that allows to continuously experiment and evolve (transformation is not a goal, it’s a way of being)

I cannot tell which one is the “most important”, since have found the three are relevant in different degrees in any large transformation, now, my observation is that “topology” is the most complex to enable, since requires a new way of operating as an organization.
Legal Operations Counsel & Innovation Strategist in Services (non-Government), 10,001+ employees
Technology implementations often fail or encounter significant challenges because organizations don't prioritize people first. This is a fundamental aspect of change management. Addressing the human side of change is critical to overcoming resistance, encouraging buy-in, and building a positive and supportive environment for change.

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